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Time to refill, reboot and reenergise.
Last week saw us share our first Residential Training around Pedagogy. My original thought was a cruise. Cocktails, warm sun, seminar rooms, fine dining, then, I woke up!
I deliver around 100 training sessions a year and so do many of my peers. I am lucky enough to share an enormous amount of quality interactions about pedagogy. They challenge me, they stretch my thinking and they allow me to modify, adapt and change my content and delivery in response to the reading, research and thinking not just of me but from those in the know.
Added to this, at the end of nearly every session I deliver, the evaluations say, ‘could have listened to more’, ‘wish my whole team could have been here’ or ‘wish there had been more time’.
So we found an even better venue than a cruise, I gathered my disrupters and thinkers and together we created a programme.
Here are a few of the reflections from our professional development experience.
We gathered on a Monday evening, wine or gin in hand ready to begin our adventure. June O and I invited the 13 delegates into our two hour conversation around ‘leading a child to learning’.
We imagined the next four days as they would be shaped not around curriculum content or benchmarks and outcomes but around the child. The child and their play. We laid the path to us. The biggest resource a child has access to, US.
Our sessions were short bursts of thinking, research, pedagogical dialogue and many hours of contemplation and listening.
‘When we talk we are sharing what we already know. When we listen we may learn something new.’ Dali lama
We gathered around one huge table for food, every few hours and of course the most important conversations really started then. As we mulled the content over, reflected and responded to it. We agreed with lots and disagreed too. We debated and pushed our thinking around ideas we had heard of, some we had not.

 

 

As with our children, environments matter. And our spaces and places were glorious. Surrounded by beauty, tranquillity and the buzz of the professional and social conversations. And of course our own, private space to retreat to and ponder.
Over the next few weeks I will share some of the thoughts we debated, some of the theory and thinking we argued around. Here are a few of the first reflections, perhaps they will encourage you to ponder to.

 

“It opened my eyes and changed my way of thinking. I bloody loved all the presenters. I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I spent time sharing ideas with. Life changing, career changing. Learned so much, only hope I have time to digest and put into practice.” CK
“Every session very relevant, good length, ‘relaxedness’! A nurturing experience, feeling inspired and challenged. A huge amount to process. Not just professionally but personally too.” EF
“Provided depth to my knowledge and given me confidence to share this with staff. Great strategies to lead on developing pedagogy.” CW
“Realisation that our settings need to consider the elements of art. It was fantastic, that even towards the end of my career, I am still discovering aspects of play I didn’t know anything about.” JL
Everyone left with a data key, full to bursting with all the presentations, research, learning prompts used to roll it out with their staff. But it was the shared, lived conversations and time that left the impact.
I was so delighted that each time I chatted with one of the delegates I was still learning, thinking about impact and tweaking my ideas. It warmed my heart that each delegate will go away and share with other professionals. Cascading experiences.
All of the delegates at one point or another mentioned how they felt invested in. Professional development for the soul!
May 26, 2021

A spirit of enquiry

Our challenge today is figuring out ways to ignite and flame the spirit of inquiry in children.
Our children are ‘switched on’, engaging in very different ways than they have done previously. When they are engaged in play we hope that they do more than just memorise facts and reiterate the thoughts and findings of the adults they are engaging with.
Our hope should be to take their natural curiosity and let them fly with it. Play is often shaped by adults who feel like they should be ‘in charge’, ‘in control’. We need to be brave, to step back and let the children wonder.

This little peg gathering. Just place something out in a little nook somewhere in the playroom. Don’t draw attention to it, don’t suggest the children notice it. Just leave it and sit back and notice the children actions, emotions and words in response to your provocation.
Curiosity drives learning. A curious child will ask questions, come up with their own solutions and seek to test the results to find out if their idea is the right one. Curiosity, awe and wonder engages our children in thinking creatively.
When our children are involved in creative thinking they are developing transferable cognitive skills.
Through invitations to play we are offering the possibility to develop our children’s knowledge and understanding of how the world works, how they can positively manipulate their world through exploration and investigation.
As our children play in provocative and interesting environments they begin to analyse, they question why, how, what…

A few days later place out a different group of creatures. Let the children spirit of enquiry kick in.
As children investigate and make discoveries during their play they begin to apply the skills they develop in a wide variety of ways, if encouraged. We should consider environments that support and enable the application of the skills and knowledge each child is developing. Not over planned but spaces created with possibilities!

Two little animals made out of spoons. A duck and a mouse. What brings them together? Why are they made out of spoons? Who do they belong to? How did they get here?
As children become absorbed in deep play children can begin to combine separate ideas to form new concepts.  Our hope is that we will see our children reflect and recall their thinking and learning.
If we encourage and allow each child to share their creative ideas, to shape and form their opinions on what best way to go about their play the more their confidence develops. We should all be aiming for each child to develop a strong desire to lead their own play and hone their spirit of enquiry.
Don’t forget you can share your thoughts and ideas with us on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!
As we move past 2020 into the new year with recent news of vaccines and new lockdowns there have no doubt been mixed feelings! I wanted to write a wee post considering Happiness and how we can remind ourselves what can contribute to our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, as well as our children’s of course. It’s not an easy time so these are just some observations and suggestions, at the end of the day everyone is different, and you will all have strategies yourselves, but here are little thoughts around what the research points to!

Positive Relationships

Express your heartConnect. People who have one or more close friendships are happier. It doesn’t necessarily matter if we have a large network of relationships or not. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative, even just one or a few. So, fostering the relationships that we enjoy, even if it’s digitally, can make a huge difference to our Happiness.

Acts of Kindness

Cultivate kindness! People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed. Although “caring” can involve volunteering as part of an organised group or club, it can also be something as simple as reaching out to a colleague or someone in your friendship group who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue. It can create a sense of community or closeness with others and model good behaviour for our little ones. Simply things like a touch on the shoulder (with those in our bubbles), sparkling eyes, a head dipped to the side showing you are actively listening or soft, caring tone to your voice helps the feeling of togetherness.

Exercise and Physical Wellbeing 

We are always told to keep moving and eat well. Definitely easier said than done! But regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. The Cochrane Review (the most influential medical review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark analysis of 23 studies on exercise and depression. One of the major conclusions was that exercise had a “large clinical impact” on depression. It doesn’t have to be a full work out, especially since we are mostly at home, but a short walk or dance around the living room will have a great effect if done regularly! Dance it out!

Find your Flow

If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called “flow.” Many kinds of activities, such as sports, playing an instrument, teaching, or a shared learning experience, can produce the experience of flow.  It can be hard to balance a hobby when working from home but putting aside even 10 minutes a day for yourself to do something you enjoy can allow you to get a bit more in tune with your ‘flow’.
All of these little habits can contribute positively to our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing as well as modelling these behaviours of looking after ourselves for our little ones. It’s easy to forget about yourself when so many people are having difficulties but remember to take care of yourself too!

Did you know…

That what is evident from neuroscience is that ‘normal’ brain development in early childhood is dependent upon environmental input and, for parents and carers, this means warm and loving, appropriate interaction with children who are living in a safe context, in which they are nourished and nurtured and allowed opportunities to explore.
So now that we are caring for ourselves… how can we care for our children?
Young children need to feel safe and secure; we can facilitate this in many ways:
  • considering the possible threats for each child and minimising these threats as far as possible.
  • ensuring that the child feels safe both physically and emotionally.
  • providing children with territorial space, for example, their own sleep mat, peg.
  • helping them feel that they belong by having routines and rituals, for example, welcome and departure songs and greetings.
We can also help support our children when they are dealing with difficult feelings by:
  • helping children to label and recognise their feelings.
  • helping children to learn strategies to calm down, for example, simple relaxation.
  • helping children to cope with their fears and anxieties.
Appropriate reassuring hugs and cuddles are also an essential part of working with young children. It is important to consider your own and colleagues’ understanding of this, particularly in relation to the Welfare Requirement – Safeguarding and Promoting children’s welfare.
There are so many ways to support the children we care for, but we must also remember to check in with ourselves. Do something that makes you happy today!
Don’t forget you can share your thoughts on happiness with us on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!